By Dennis Engbarth
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2007-10-17 01:58 AM
ITRI President Johnsee Lee and other staff members lifted a red veil off the four-wheeled "Ecooter" for the first time to show reporters shortly before the "concept vehicle" goes on display at the 2007 EICMA International Cycling Exposition in Milan, Italy. The expo, a well-known global exhibition for small vehicles as well as bicycles, is being held from November 8 to 11.
Lee said the existing version, whose maneuverability was displayed by a test driver, had sparked considerable interest among Taiwan automotive companies and analysts.
"There is no way that Taiwan can compete in automobile construction with the global giants, but it may be possible for Taiwan manufacturers to produce a compact, light energy-efficient and highly maneuverable urban transportation vehicle or to make key components," the ITRI president said.
The 2.5 meter long and 1.5 meter high blue vehicle, whose exterior was styled by Duck Image and ITRI designers, is based on a four-wheel diamond chassis system that can swivel 360 degrees on a radius of 1.2 meters and has an auto-tilting system that allows it to safely take sharp turns in city streets without the risk of rolling over.
Besides the usual steering wheel and gas and break pedals, the driver's system also offers a head-up display, LED headlights and taillights, wireless communications and navigation, rear view cameras and other safety features.
Power is provided by a highly efficient lithium battery that will offer approximately 100 kilometers of driving for each charge. The features include cameras that show "blind spots" to the rear and on both sides of the car and a safe driving system that alerts the driver to abnormal lane changes.
ITRI Intelligent Mobility Technology Division Director James Wang said the anticipated price range for a commercialized version of the Ecooter "should be between the price of an automobile and a motorcycle."
Wang added that the recharging time and cost would depend on the nature of the infrastructure options made available, which could include household charging or accelerated recharging with industrial level power sources.
Lee told The Taiwan News that he was considering "an entirely different business model" based on leasing instead of purchasing Ecooters or similar urban electric vehicles, but declined to comment further.
The unveiling of the Ecooter was timed to coincide with the opening of a new exhibition at ITRI entitled "Innovative Technology - Adding Value to Life" to reveal new research achievements in response to five major global trends of spreading Internet access, societal aging, user friendliness, energy and resource conservation and environmentalism.
Lee, who described ITRI's current mission as "technological R&D for national prosperity and happiness," said that many activities are shifting from "centralized" to "distributed" systems, such as the shift from banking at branches to using automated teller systems or accepting home treatment through "tele-care" systems instead of having to go to hospitals.
Besides offering energy-efficient and ecologically friendly urban transportation, Lee said, ITRI was developing products and services in line with the shift from "production to lifestyle applications" and "work and office" to "home and personal" orientation in living patterns.
One example is the development of "i-Trust" intelligent canes for senior citizens featuring back and front lights, alarm systems for accidents or to ward off dogs with ultrasonic signals, FM radio and, in the future, GSP capability.
In addition, ITRI has developed an advanced fire-resistant "REDDEX" polymer-inorganic composite for construction safety, fire fighting and other options, and WiMax personal mobile digital and wireless Web systems with "satellite news gathering" capabilities.
Lee said that ITRI itself will soon become Taiwan's first comprehensive WiMAX wireless communications concept laboratory.
Lee said that ITRI was using "Tele-care" and non-intrusive health monitoring systems to provide health monitoring programs for nearly 3,900 of its 4,843 person workforce that can both assist in offering preventative care and identifying areas of occupational hazard.
Lee added that ITRI has a pilot project with a major fast-food chain for the monitoring of energy saving possibilities, including air conditioning, refrigerating and other power systems, which has succeeded in reducing power consumption by between 10 percent to 15 percent.